Rejected Offerings

I didn’t ask the woman at the door of the tabernacle if I could come to the priesthood session. Elder Oaks had already answered my question, although he had not directed his answer to me. I strained to hear him talking to the men about me, a female member of Christ’s church who wanted to serve God as a priesthood holder. I listened through a cell phone as I waited outside in the rain, where I had been waiting in a line labeled “Standby” for nearly two hours.

It wasn’t a real standby line, even though it was labeled as such. Where I stood, behind hundreds of women hoping against hope to be admitted to the priesthood session, I saw men who entered the line behind me redirected to the real, unlabeled standby line.  A man with a Temple Square name badge was saying, “This is not the priesthood standby line, I’ll tell you that.”

There wasn’t much point to asking the woman at the end of the fake standby line if she would let me in to the priesthood session after she had already refused hundreds of other women. Instead, I asked her about Church PR. I wanted to know why the church PR department had ignored our many written requests for meetings with general authorities but responded to our request for tickets to the priesthood session with an open letter, addressed to me and three other women, with our names across the top, that was published in the Deseret News before I even received it. I wanted to know why that open letter made false claims that Ordain Women had said things that none of us had ever said.

I guess what I really wanted to know was why the church had rejected my offering. I asked to speak with my church leaders. I asked that my questions be taken to God by His prophets. I asked for the opportunity to serve my God and my church in expanded ways.  With the exception of this one woman, who had patiently received us at the end of that line, most of what I received was cutthroat PR tactics that treated me as an enemy.

I suppose that Elder Oaks answered my questions, explaining that a woman is just an “appendage“ to the priesthood. But he wasn’t speaking to me. He was speaking to other men at a session I wasn’t allowed to attend.

Serving as a missionary

Serving as a missionary

It wasn’t the first time the leaders of our church had talked about me and my female peers at the priesthood session. When I was 21 years-old, I was two months into my mission when President Hinckley, the very person who had signed my mission call and sent me to the far-away land where I was serving, gave a talk about sister missionaries during the priesthood session of General Conference. The first thing one of the male missionaries said to me after returning from the priesthood session was, “Boy, President Hinckley sure doesn’t like sister missionaries!” When I read it, I learned that the offering that I was making right then, serving my God and my church as a missionary, had been rejected by the prophet, who would have preferred that women like me stay home. Acknowledging that an all-male session was an odd place to talk about sister missionaries, Hinckley added,

“Now, that may appear to be something of a strange thing to say in priesthood meeting. I say it here because I do not know where else to say it. The bishops and stake presidents of the Church have now heard it. And they must be the ones who make the judgment in this matter.”

And so, that idealistic, excited 21-year-old missionary version of myself died a little that day. It was one of the first times I realized that men, attending male-only sessions and serving in male-only callings, would make judgments in matters of how I should serve my God in my church without my input.

Yet, I served with all my heart, might, mind and strength. I led people to God.  I tolerated leadership from teenage boys who were younger, less mature and often less knowledgeable than I was, but eligible for leadership positions that I was excluded from.  I worried about mission goals to seek out male converts instead of female.  My mission president explained that the church needed priesthood holders—men—to administer the church. Women weren’t needed.

Today, I mourn for the idealistic young missionary I used to be.  I miss her. I remember her desire to serve. I remember her faith and love for the gospel.

Cleaning a pioneer graveyard during a service project for Young Men and Young Women

Cleaning a pioneer graveyard during a service project for Young Men and Young Women

I also mourn for the 12-year-old girl I used to be. I  endured a Sunday School class that went through eight different Sunday School teachers in one year because none of them could tolerate the gang of young, male, priesthood-bearing bullies who spent each Sunday School hour shooting spit wads, knocking over chairs, and tormenting the girls and the teachers in the class.  Unlike my teachers, it never occurred to me to quit that class. I came every week, bracing myself for the boys’ torture but still eager to hear God’s words at my church. My 12-year-old self loved the church too much to let bullies keep me away.

And I mourn for the 8-year-old girl I used to be. I set a goal to read a dozen volumes of Bible stories in preparation for my baptism and memorized tales of my scripture heroes. I remember my joy as I stepped into the baptismal font, my resolve to keep my covenants.  I remember my father smiling and waiting in the water to baptize me.   I don’t remember what my mother was doing at that moment.

In my confirmation dress, the day after my baptism

In my confirmation dress, the day after my baptism

What is left of these younger versions of myself has been tainted, if not lost. I feel like these qualities in me were

intentionally quenched by my faith community. My church has rejected my offerings again and again, refusing my service because I am a woman.

I wonder how I will continue to protect my faith while I endure yet another rejection. Today, I read new falsehoods written by the Church PR Department about our efforts at Temple Square yesterday and news stories from church-owned media outlets that underestimate our numbers by less than half. I struggle to reconcile the fact that the church that taught me honesty and kindness does not employ these virtues toward me and other women like me.

I worry about younger girls who remind me of myself. What if they, like me, can never honestly say, “I don’t want the responsibility of the priesthood”? How will they avoid the censure of their Mormon peers, their church leaders and the PR professionals the church hires? Will they grow up like me, never able to understand how a desire to avoid responsibility in God’s work is a virtue? Will they be satisfied as “appendages to the priesthood”? Will their offerings be rejected? Will their faith and idealism and excitement for the gospel dwindle?

I hope not, but sometimes it is so hard to hope.

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is an advocate, mother, professional, lover of the arts, hater (but doer) of housework and seeker of truth. Twitter: @aprilyoungb

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133 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    Devastating. How many women, fully willing to give their hearts to the gospel and church, have we lost because their gifts were not wanted? It hurts to think about.

  2. Alisa says:

    Heartbreaking. I’m at a raw place, and still processing, but thank you for your words. I hear them. I understand. It’s hard to grow (and grow up) in such a confining space where the boundaries and leashes are so, so, so very tight. I need to breathe.

  3. Katrina says:

    April, thank you for sharing your story. I had already pretty much given up hope in my church and walked away a couple years ago, but it doesn’t seem to make the pain any less to see how this church is treating its women. My heart breaks for you and the many others who keep hoping. I may not have faith in the church anymore, but I have faith in all of you.

  4. Andria says:

    I am heart broken and quite distraught over what I have read from Pres. Hinckley. I can not put words to my thoughts as yet. What a shame.

    • becky says:

      It’s misquoted and misapplied. Please see comment below. I am sorry for the idiot elder who didn’t understand what was said

      • April says:

        Becky, the quote I included is a direct quote from the talk. Here it is in context:

        I confess that I have two granddaughters on missions. They are bright and beautiful young women. They are working hard and accomplishing much good. Speaking with their bishops and their parents, they made their own decisions to go. They did not tell me until they turned their papers in. I had nothing to do with their decision to go.
        Now, having made that confession, I wish to say that the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve are united in saying to our young sisters that they are not under obligation to go on missions. I hope I can say what I have to say in a way that will not be offensive to anyone. Young women should not feel that they have a duty comparable to that of young men. Some of them will very much wish to go. If so, they should counsel with their bishop as well as their parents. If the idea persists, the bishop will know what to do.
        I say what has been said before, that missionary work is essentially a priesthood responsibility. As such, our young men must carry the major burden. This is their responsibility and their obligation.
        I do not ask the young women to consider a mission as an essential part of their life’s program. Over a period of many years, we have held the age level higher for them in an effort to keep the number going relatively small. Again to the sisters I say that you will be as highly respected, you will be considered as being as much in the line of duty, your efforts will be as acceptable to the Lord and to the Church whether you go on a mission or do not go on a mission.
        I constantly receive letters from young women asking why the age for sister missionaries is not the same as it is for elders. We simply give them the reasons. We know that they are disappointed. We know that many have set their hearts on missions. We know that many of them wish this experience before they marry and go forward with their adult lives. I certainly do not wish to say or imply that their services are not wanted. I simply say that a mission is not necessary as a part of their lives.
        Now, that may appear to be something of a strange thing to say in priesthood meeting. I say it here because I do not know where else to say it. The bishops and stake presidents of the Church have now heard it. And they must be the ones who make the judgment in this matter.

        Here are my concerns with this statement:

        1. Hinckley described the missions of his own granddaughters in terms that indicate embarrassment about their choice to serve: “I confess…”

        2.Hinckley encouraged practices in his speech that deny female autonomy. “Some of them [young women] will very much wish to go. If so, they should counsel with their bishop as well as their parents. If the idea persists, the bishop will know what to do.”

        It appears from these statements that a woman’s “wish” to go on a mission is only valuable if “the idea persists” after three other people have had a chance to try to talk her out of it. We do not treat men with desires to serve this way.

        “Now, that may appear to be something of a strange thing to say in priesthood meeting. I say it here because I do not know where else to say it. The bishops and stake presidents of the Church have now heard it. And they must be the ones who make the judgment in this matter.”

        I decided to serve a mission when I was seven years old. I felt like the bishop’s and stake president’s role in the process was to verify my worthiness when I told them about my autonomous decision and submitted my paperwork. I learn from Hinckley’s speech that he feels that these two men actually had the “judgment in this matter.” In fact, my own autonomous decision-making was so irrelevant, that he did not feel it necessary to give a speech about this topic in a place where I could hear it. Only the bishop and stake president were important enough decision-makers to discuss the issue with.

        3. Hinckley indicated that he would prefer that few women serve missionaries, and he was not pleased that so many of us were currently serving. This is definitely not as bad a message as the one the male missionaries delivered to me when they paraphrased it, but the actual message, that Hinckley wished fewer of us women, such as me, were out there serving was poor comfort to me when I was actually out there, apparently against the prophet’s preference: “Over a period of many years, we have held the age level higher for them in an effort to keep the number going relatively small.”

      • Ricky says:

        April, do you really believe that President Hinckley was embarrassed that he had 2 granddaughters serving missions? He said they are ‘bright and beautiful young women’ and they are ‘accomplishing much good.’ I think that he was pleased with their service, not embarrassed by them.

        He probably wanted to make it clear that he followed his own counsel: “they made their own decisions to go” without his influence. I find it very hard to believe that he was embarrassed about them. His point was that sisters are not under obligation to serve missions. Having 2 granddaughters in the mission field had the potential to distract from that point.

        It’s awesome you decided to serve a mission when you were 7 years old. I hope you don’t feel like your service was less valuable because you were not an ‘Elder’. President Hinckley made it clear that is not the case (“you will be as highly respected, you will be considered as being as much in the line of duty, your efforts will be as acceptable to the Lord and to the Church”).

        In that same talk, President Hinckley also said: “Now I wish to say something to bishops and stake presidents concerning missionary service. It is a sensitive matter. There seems to be growing in the Church an idea that all young women as well as all young men should go on missions. We need some young women. They perform a remarkable work. They can get in homes where the elders cannot.”

        The service of young women who do serve is every bit as important, if not moreso, than the service of young men.

  5. X2 Dora says:

    One thing that really stands out to me is that the work of proselyting, converting, and baptizing is being held back by the lack of priesthood holders. In the US, I think it is very rare for anyone to not have access to church services within a 3 hour radius. On an international scope, the same is just not true. There are many places in the world where branches or wards cannot be setup, because of a lack of priesthood holders. This means that people are unable to be baptized, attend services, or receive the sacrament. What a tragedy. How much difference would it make to the people in those areas to have sisters holding the priesthood, and be able to minister AND administer?! So, the charitable part of my soul recoils when I hear women saying that they have too much responsibility, and don’t want women, any other women, to hold the priesthood. It seems like a very selfish and privileged position.

    • Alys's Wonderland says:

      I agree wholeheartedly! And every time I hear phrase “hastening the work,” I think to myself that if the church truly is committed to work-hastening, the obvious (OBVIOUS!) main thing that could be done is to ordain women. Double the potential leaders.

  6. joe says:

    Comment

    • April says:

      Brother Nunes, (Joe)
      It is good to hear from you. I was not in your ward when I was 12 years old. My parents moved there when I was in high school. I am sorry about the confusion, but the Sunday School class I was talking about was not in your ward.

      • joe says:

        April: No need to apologize. The mistake was mine (as mentioned in a post a little further down). I appreciate the gentle way you corrected my mistake. As I mentioned before, I love all your family and that natural kindness each of you possesses is one of the main reasons.

  7. joe says:

    I believe I was the Sunday School President in your ward when you were about 12 years old. I don’t recall changing teachers much at all during that time frame. I’d love to hear you list the names of the eight teachers that were driven out of your class. Further, I taught course 12 for three years. My frustration was equally with the boys and the girls. The boys have ants in their pants, constantly jostling each other, pretty physical. The girls create a constant hum of background chatter and they just won’t be quiet and listen to the lesson. Of course, neither drove me from the class but your memory is more a reflection of your personal biases than reality.

    • Mily says:

      Well, that was a kind and loving comment.

    • Libby says:

      As is yours, Joe. We do ask that you be respectful of other people’s experiences here.

      • joe says:

        I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful. However, April makes a big issue about integrity in her comments. I just asked her to live up to the same standard of honesty rather than rhetoric. I WAS in her ward. I WAS the SS Pres. I did NOT change teachers with the frequency she suggests. I will respect her experiences that are real, not the ones that I know to be false.

      • Libby says:

        Again, Joe, that’s how you remember things. But there’s a good possibility that the teachers you knew about used substitutes and that the class was just as disjointed as April remembers. Please realize that your own memory of the incident may be biased; after all, you were the Sunday School president, but you likely attended Gospel Doctrine with the rest of the adults. She was actually sitting in the class.

      • becky says:

        Anyone would be defensive at the accusations that impact Joe. He is being accused of ignoring problem behavior due to a misogynistic preference for boys even though the age in question is a nasty one. He’s also been somewhat accused of his behavior leading to someone’s loss of faith and it’s implied that normal boy behavior (the very thing the Priesthood may be intended to help men overcome) is evidence that men are mishandling something he probably holds dear. Like the men I know, he likely tried very hard to do what’s best and so, yes, bristles at embarrassment and accusation. Give him a break.

      • mraynes says:

        Becky, where in April’s post is he being accused of anything? April did not call out the Sunday School president in her post. And why, if Joe really is who he says he is, are you giving him the benefit of the doubt but withholding that from April? Both are just as likely to suffer from hazy memories. April is sharing her experience. At the Exponent we respect people’s experiences. As Libby pointed out, there are ways that both of their memories can be true so perhaps a little more charity is due her.

      • X2 Dora says:

        So, the Sunday School president of a regular family ward is in charge of the Sunday School classes of the entire ward? Does responsibility include Gospel Doctrine, Gospel Essentials (although I thought this was the province of the Ward Mission), Family History, Temple Preparation, Celestial Marriage, Provident Living, Youth Sunday School classes, and Primary Sunday School (although I thought this was under the Primary Presidency)?

      • joe says:

        Libby: Let’s assume for a minute that April’s claim is correct about running 8 teachers out of the class in a year. How does she know the reason they left? Did these teachers confide in her? Why would they share their frustrations with one of their 12-year-old students? Isn’t it more likely that the boys were annoying to April so she projected her own annoyance onto the teachers in question? All that is based on the presumption that her 12-year-old memory is precise (perhaps she has a journal to draw on for the accuracy of her comments). I’d still like to hear who those teachers were.

        I concede that I was not a perfect SS President. The duties back then were a little different than today. I was primarily responsible to ensure each class was staffed, that the quality of teaching was acceptable, and ringing the bell at the end of SS. As suggested, I could not attend every class every week so my attendance in her class was much less frequent than her own. However, I never suggest otherwise. All I claimed is that I did not make many staff changes during my tenure as SS President. I’ll further add that we seldom had substitutes. I believe if there had been a series of substitutes, I would have been aware of it and been forced to resolve the problem or make a staffing change. I did add my own experience as a course 12 teacher to try to explain that I had frustrations with kids of both genders. I currently teach course 15 and find the same to be true. The boys aren’t physical with each other but they can become disengaged. The girls don’t chatter as much but they can be awful with texting on their cell phones. However, as a rule, today’s youth are dreams compared to when I taught two decades ago and they were dreams compared to when I was in youth classes myself. I never perceived any ill intent by either gender, just a lack of patience and self-control. 40 minutes is sometimes too long for them to stay engaged.

        X2 Dora: The SS President is responsible for courses 12-17 and any adult courses. Typically that would be anywhere from 2-4 classes: Gospel Doctrine, Gospel Essentials, perhaps a Young Adult class, and a specialty course such as Family History or Family Relations. The SS President is responsible for the quality of the teaching in those classes. In my opinion, a good SS President visits each of the classes at least once or twice a year. My class was visited in early March this year.

        April: This is Joe Nunes. Of course, I know Sterling much better since he and Joey would almost inseparable. And, of course, I know you parents quite well. Your Dad was my home teacher for quite a while and I love that man. In fact, I think the world of your whole family.

        I’m not trying to get in your issues or to debate them with you. You have a brilliant mind and I think you are able to argue your position without empty rhetoric and without exaggeration. I only commented because I find your claim about your course 12 experience to be false for the reasons I’ve already cited: 1) it is in conflict with my personal recollection and 2) I don’t see how you would be in a position to know why teachers quit their positions. I don’t care to get into a “he said, she said” argument with you but I did think it would be fair to reveal my identity so you know I’m not just some troll trying to discredit you with made-up claims.

      • X2 Dora says:

        It seems like Joe and Becky are being defensive when there was no cause to be. How many years ago was this? Two decades? What teenager remembers the names of all their Sunday School teachers? Maybe YW or YM leaders, but not SS teachers. And how would Joe remember all the teachers from all of those classes? I think it highly unlikely. Human memory is very selective. A person calling out another person for remembering things wrong is … well, probably just as wrong themselves. Again, it was April’s lived experience.

        As for Teacher Development, is it still being done? I remember being the RS counselor in charge of education, and we had to do inservices. I don’t see this in evidence anymore. This is a shame, especially with all the research on generational learning and learning styles. I think that very few people are prepared to engage millenials and younger children. No wonder they are going stir-crazy at church. Then again, I’m sure rowdy children can manage to improve their behavior when additional authoritative adults are in the room (like a visiting SS president).

      • aaron says:

        Joe,

        It’s been many days so you may not see this, but i still wanted to chime in. When I was 12, I remember VERY clearly my own sunday school class. I remember being a difficult member of that class and being so rowdy at times that the teacher would just leave, right in the middle of the class. This happened about every other week. One day specifically, I remember the teacher (bro. Price) was so fed up with me that he grabbed me with both of his hands by my arms, he squoze so tightly that I litterally wanted to cry outloud. I felt like he wanted to hurt me, I saw the anger in his eyes and in that moment the only thing keeping him from striking me was the fact that we were in a church, and we were outside the other wards bishops office. I will never forget how I acted, and he acted in that class. I later went home to tell my dad what that nasty person had done to me, and my dad (predicably, yet still surprisingly) wondered why I was acting so horribly. I was grounded for the entire day and the next.

        I am not surprised at all that April can remember her SS class so well.
        FYI for context I am 35 now.

    • April says:

      Just in case anyone missed this up above, I was not in Joe’s ward when I was 12. I moved there in high school.

      • joe says:

        April: I actually considered that after my last post. I moved to that ward in 1991 and was the SS President from 1992-1994. Joey would have been about 12 during that time and so would Sterling (Joey was born in 1981). When I started to put the math together, I realized you were the oldest with Heidi and Todd (in some order) between the two of you so you would have been older. I also believe Windsor Manor was built up after our neighborhood because we could see the elementary school from our house when we first moved in. So, I concede that the timing was wrong.

        However, I’m still confused why teachers would share their reasons for quitting with a 12-year-old student in their class. That just doesn’t ring true. Still, as has been pointed out, it is your memory, not mine. I yield the point to you.

      • kyliem says:

        I know this point doesn’t need belaboring, and I really don’t want to take away from the main point of April’s original and excellent post, but just to chime in, as a 12-year-old in my own SS class, we (mostly a group of boys and shy introverted me) did once refer to our teacher as “Brother Cockroach” (I guess his name sounded vaguely like Cockroach?), refused to listen to his lesson, threw papers around, until a few months later he tearfully told us he had to resign for his own health and sanity and he didn’t know why on earth we were being so mean to him. I felt bad about it at the time, and I feel bad about it now. 12-year-olds can be awful, and in my experience, the adults around us weren’t afraid to tell us when they couldn’t tolerate us anymore.

  8. Aaron says:

    Thanks for having a place for comments. That took courage. It really feels like you have a problem with all these immature men and boys in your life. I’m sorry about that. Some males in our species never outgrow that flaw. But didn’t Jesus say that he would make weak things strong. Maybe, only giving men the priesthood is the only way the weaker sex could even have any hope I’d returning to live with God. As a man I absolutely feel that with out the priesthood in my life I WOULD NOT HAVE THE WILL, DESIRE, or ABILITY, to try and file God’s plan. I will readily admit that in my opinion men are not naturally in tune to the spirit, like women are. Nor do I feel that they have much compassion on their own for complete strangers, without the weight of responsibility the priesthood brings. (just look at home and visiting teaching stats). I feel I should caution you about asking and asking the prophets to go to the Lord over this. remember Martin Harris…… I’m sure you went to the Lord yourself with this issue. I know he has heard your prayers, if the Lord sees fit to give women the authority to act in his name through the priesthood, it will be in his own time. Remember the patience of Job. I appreciate your faith good sister, allow the Lord to work His plan on earth goes he sees fit.

    • Libby says:

      Aaron, if you truly believe that, then why do you refer to women as “the weaker sex”?

      • sz says:

        When I read his comment, I felt he was clearly referring to men as being “the weaker sex” — as in, “without the priesthood, we men as the weaker sex would have no hope of returning to live with our Heavenly Father.”

    • Aaron says:

      Let me be clear, Men, are the weaker sex.

      • mraynes says:

        Aaron, this is your opinion. As a mother of three sons I find this idea disgusting. And as I have never heard Jesus make this claim I feel comfortable in rejecting it.

      • Aaron says:

        MRAYNES, what exactly don’t you agree with? Jesus did in fact say he would make weakness, into strength.

      • Mraynes says:

        Yes, but that was intended for both men and women. Hopefully it doesn’t come as too much of a surprise that women have weaknesses too.

      • Aaron says:

        No shocker here MRAYES, I would never want to Post that women have weakness.

        I feel personally that I can relate feeling like the weaker sex. I watch my wife very often receive inspiration from the Lord pertaining to our family. Then she will say, “but what do you feel when you pray about it?”
        Then, feeling sheepish and looking a fool I will admit that I haven’t even yet thought about paying about it. much les receiving an answer. I am in awe of her closeness to the spirit, in spite of her weaknesses. I know that men and women alike are flawed. the root of all my comments boil down to this. Why circumvent your own pathway to the Lord thru prayer. Good gave YOU the authority to go directly to him with your problems, he promised to help you. Don’t take your question of women and the priesthood to a flawed antiquated group of men. Go to him directly. I honestly feel that if you have faith in him, he will come to you just as he did Joseph Smith. Why wouldn’t God make this right for you directly. I believe he would, especially if the men running his church were leading it in the wrong way.

    • X2 Dora says:

      I’ve heard this line of thought alot. “Men need the priesthood, otherwise, they would leave the church.” However, many organizational studies show that women are better at leading. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have women doing the administration of the church, and men doing the service-oriented actions? That policy change would make it so that the more qualified leaders were kept in place, and the “weaker sex” (as Aaron calls himself, not that I agree) would have more spiritually uplifting roles to fill?

    • spunky says:

      Aaron,
      Thank you for your near-perfect mini-lecture on Muscular Christianity. As you know, Muscular Christianity was a device that came in the Victorian Era that tried to make religion more manly. The growing element called the “boy problem” that arose from industrialization made males into city folk, and with increasing numbers of employed women and free education, large groups of boys began to assemble and cause trouble. Identified in the late Victorian era, organizations like the Boys brigade started to teach males militarism and religion. Females were excluded from this company through the label of being “more spiritual,” therefore not needing religious training because it was perceived to come “naturally” to women. As a result, men were trained in leadership because it was deemed necessary in order to give men a sense of purpose.

      This is the point that you omitted in your dissertation: the fact that this is a social construct of the world, not inspired by God and a presumption that came from industrialization (i.e. the end of mass farming.) wherein exploration and so forth were decried as manly and righteous (“manifest destiny”) because of eugenics.

      In other words, your argument is worldly. Not inspired. It is presumed based on the same social principles of the era in which the church developed, making it a wholly antiquated, worldly argument. Not inspired. Not even a little. This is a religious blog. You might consider making a religious argument, rather than proving the worldliness of your own argument.

      • Aaron says:

        Spunky, you sound well educated and informed. I’m not sure why you haven’t formed your own religion yet. I think you should pray to your God and form a start up. Clearly, your talents are being wasted in this antiquated church. I assume you’re a member. Help pull us out of the Victorian era.

      • Caroline says:

        Spunky, can you turn this into a post? I’d love to read a bit more about how muscular Christianity began the trend of identifying men as needing special leadership in order to stay out of trouble.

      • Mraynes says:

        This comment is in direct violation of our comment policy, Aaron. This is a warning that further inappropriate comments will be moderated.

    • April says:

      Aaron, I do not think the problem is the immaturities and weaknesses of individual men. I think there are systemic problems that amplify instead of protecting against such issues. Here is a good article that discusses this point further: http://bycommonconsent.com/2013/10/14/tqm-kaizen-and-women-in-the-church/

    • Jeanmarie says:

      The weaker sex? Seriously?!

  9. Becky says:

    In defense of a misquoted dead man who can’t defend himself:

    With reference to young sister missionaries, there has been some misunderstanding of earlier counsel regarding single sisters serving as missionaries. We need some young women. They perform a remarkable work. They can get in homes where the elders cannot. But it should be kept in mind that young sisters are not under obligation to go on missions. They should not feel that they have a duty comparable to that of young men, but some will wish to go. If so, they should counsel with their bishop as well as their parents.” President Gordon B. Hinckley, “To the Bishops of the Church,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, June 2004, 27.

    I don’t agree with Ordain v Women (haha…that was a typo but it expresses my sentiments well) . I feel that the “church” you dislike so much hears what I say a whole lot better than Ordain Women who refuse to accept that the vast majority of women(510 out of several million is not a huge percentage) do not want to be part of the Priesthood nor do we feel particularly silenced. Our service in the church is accepted, but to this group, no service a woman currently gives has any value. I can’t imagine an idea more misogynistic.

    I agree there were issues on missions and I was thrilled to see the changes that have given women more access and leadership. How sad that this group is so focused on an absolute that they would rather see women walk away from faith than rejoice in real though not absolute progress. If God intends to change this, it will happen. From this post, it doesn’t seem as though many of the women who long for it will be there to see the happy day. Instead, it will be those of us who never asked for it. Irony. Maybe some flexibility would get you those coveted meetings and be truly helpful to those of us whose voices apparently matter so little. Have you ever talked to female leadership or do they have to little value to you?

    I am sorry you apparently know such lousy men. I don’t know these men. The vast majority of men in my church world are kind and generous and respect women. I do agree with the comment above that men need the Priesthood. I’m sorry they don’t say things the way you want them to. We do find what we seek though, so maybe I do know these men but I don’t give them attention. I don’t know.

    I long for a version of feminism where women rejoice in who they are and what they offer rather than endlessly lamenting that only what men have and are hold value (a horribly misogynistic approach). Where they seek to build organizations and communities so lovely that the men beg to join. We have so much to offer as women but we choose to silence ourselves in pursuit of organizational approval. Since when were amazing things accomplished with organizational consent? Let’s work miracles at the periphery so that we get all the credit 🙂

    I feel for your sadness. But your cure would silence the voices of your sisters. Do their thoughts matter? Or have you silenced and belittled them in your pursuit of a personal solution to an injured past? If that is so, then the church is not alone in having inappropriate conversations about what is best for women outside the reach of the actual persons in question.

    God is endlessly patient and loves you. He would help you through this if it is what you want but it may not immediately go your way. He often lets things not go our way to see how complete our trust can be. Our faith is not in a church. The church is just a vehicle of support and service. Our faith is in God and in His ability to help and heal even when the world seems to suck us dry. If you aren’t willing to deny the faith of your youth, then you may find this is the journey that teaches you complete reliance on the Atonement. What a glorious journey of faith, humility and patience it could be.

    I wish you well (and the humility to accept that your fellow sisters may have something valuable to teach you). May God comfort your heart.

    • mraynes says:

      Becky, please check our comment policy, specifically numbers 3 and 4. You make some less than charitable assumptions about April as well as question her faith. You are welcome to share your own experience and opinions but please refrain from making judgements about another sister on our site.

      • becky says:

        Thanks for making my point. April herself said her faith is in question and she doubts she can continue. I’ve now read this comment to four people none of whom can figure out what is contrary to policy. My sin seems to be dissent and I apologize. I wish the women who wrote here were more open to dialogue. Feel free to call me a troll and delete.

      • X2 Dora says:

        Some of these comments, about how women should know their place and stay in it, make me so incredibly sad. It’s *because* I believe in the amazing potential for all women and men, as described in the gospel, and *because* I believe in my temple covenants, that I believe it will be requisite for women and men to exercise the priesthood. The closed vision of women’s roles seems circumscribed, contained, and unworthy of someone who aims to be a goddess like our Heavenly Parents.

      • Libby says:

        Becky, it’s your rhetorical question asking whether April silences and belittles other women in the Church that is most out of line. (Also most incorrect, since it makes it quite apparent that you don’t regularly read her posts here.)

      • X2 Dora says:

        I, for one, am *sometimes* glad when trollish comments are allowed to stand. Just the other day, a women in my ward said to me, “You know, I’m not a feminist, and I don’t really care about women’s ordination. But, the other day I was reading some blogs, and got so mad at some of the anti-people. They were so rude, condescending, and unChristlike, that I got hot under the collar! Maybe there is something to this OW movement.”

      • mraynes says:

        As Libby says, this is what I objected to: “I feel for your sadness. But your cure would silence the voices of your sisters. Do their thoughts matter? Or have you silenced and belittled them in your pursuit of a personal solution to an injured past?” This is an unkind comment, particularly as you know nothing about April. She is one of the the kindest, most thoughtful women I know. I bristled at this because she is in pain and your comment was cruel and untrue. And yes, April did question her faith but that is for her to judge, not you.

        This is a place for open dialogue but we have an expectation that this be done with respect and kindness. It is perfectly doable to dissent and be civil.

    • spunky says:

      Becky,
      As someone who was personally acquainted with President Hinckley, I suggest that some of his antiquated thoughts are somewhat in defense of his own family and the family he knew. He was the son of a polygamist, and grandson of pioneers, wherein first wives were given higher status, ran the house and men were in separate ranks, organized under military titles in setting up towns as directed by the first presidency. We are our parents’ children, and though we progress and adapt, our family roots colour our vision.

      I do not think him ill in any way, but his perception of men being the leaders, and women only as mothers, removing women to the “home,” is based in the generational concept of men needing to protect the church and women, i.e. the church as an army. This was his position, based on what he had testimony of as a result of his childhood and upbringing and the place in which his testimony developed. But because this was his personal history doesn’t make it perfect, or even right.

    • April says:

      Becky, others have addressed your comment policy violations already, so I will attempt to address the other issues. Please see my comment above for an analysis of the Hinckley talk. Also, if just knowing that it was painful for me, one of the currently serving sister missionaries of the time, is not enough for you, I might point out that I was not alone in feeling this way. Read this: http://www.the-exponent.com/guest-post-called-of-god-in-spite-of-man-or-to-spite-man-choosing-to-be-a-sister-missionary-in-the-face-of-opposition/ or this: http://www.mormonmentality.org/2011/10/19/elders-and-sisters.htm#comment-133469

    • April says:

      Becky, please try not to put words into other people’s mouths. I did not say that I disliked the church. I described many things I love about the church, and a few things that trouble me about it. Most people who love organizations and other people will also find that one or two things that trouble them about those people and organizations. People and organizations are complex.

    • April says:

      With regards to this, “…Ordain Women who refuse to accept that the vast majority of women(510 out of several million is not a huge percentage) do not want to be part of the Priesthood nor do we feel particularly silenced….” Ordain Women has never claimed to represent the majority of women’s opinions. However, I do know that more women support ordination than the 510 who happened to come to our event. Women told me they desperately wanted to come, but could not because of fear of reprisal. (Who can blame them? Look at the tongue-thrashing you gave me! Some women cannot handle that kind of censure.) Other women said they support ordination of women, but do not wish to publicly demonstrate. Others simply could not come because they could not afford the expense.

      As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a minority religion in most locations, I have been taught to stand up for my beliefs, even if, and sometimes especially if, I am in the minority. It does not seem right to me to stay silent until I somehow become confident that I represent a majority opinion.

    • April says:

      “…to this group, no service a woman currently gives has any value.” Again, you are putting words into our mouths that simply aren’t there. According to the FAQ at http://ordainwomen.org

      “While women perform significant service in the Church’s auxiliaries, such as the Primary, Relief Society, Sunday School, and Young Women’s organizations, their contributions are always mediated and under the direction of male priesthood leaders. According to the Church’s Gospel Principles manual, “Men use priesthood authority to preside in the Church. . . . Women who hold positions in the Church . . . work under the direction of the priesthood.” As such, Mormon women have many delegated responsibilities but lack the authority to define and oversee those responsibilities.”

      and

      “Equality is not about sameness; it is about removing obstacles to access and opportunity.”

      I will need to stop there, because I have already devoted too much time to your long comment.

      • Becky says:

        I promised I wouldn’t go back to this since I was treated so badly, but I guess that was the point. I am not alone in feeling that Ordain Women rejects the feelings and wishes of those who disagree with the basic tenet. I think the comments above prove that well.

        I would like to see Ordain Women open a dialogue with the Relief Society leaders in the various wards and, if needed, at the church office level, rather than continually tell us that our opinions are of no validity and only the members of Ordain Women know anything about what it means to be a woman or what might help women.

        Perhaps I wasn’t responding to this post but to an overall lack of respect for women that is evident on this page. I hold that the most mysoginistic view in all these quotes is the idea that women don’t have valid opinions unless they agree with the posters on this page.

        April, you mentioned feeling disregarded and cast aside as the main reason for your struggle at present. Can you not see how you did that to me?

      • X2 Dora says:

        Becky, I’m sorry that you feel alienated from the discussion on this blog. However, for the most part, I haven’t seen anyone being rude to you. The one thing that the permabloggers have done is to point out where you are violating commenting policy. You were the one to flippantly call yourself a troll, and suggest that your comments might be moderated. I understand that you might feel “disregarded and cast aside,” but I think you have missed the point, if you think that the bloggers and commenters here are misogynists.

  10. Corrina says:

    April, thank you for sharing your story, testimony, feelings, doubt, and hope. I am not a part of OW, but I am very appreciative of what you have done and for speaking up. I am glad you asked those questions to the sister at the door of the tabernacle. I think it is appalling how the church’s PR department has communicated both before and after the event.

    Please know that your pain is felt and that you are not alone. Thank you for all you do to make the church an even better place! You can’t give up, because your example is making a difference for someone like me as I try to make small changes in my ward for girls, YW, and women. Hugs.

  11. Jon says:

    April, that was a touching post. Thank you.

    As an outsider, some of this really puzzles me. Can someone explain to me why there is such a lack of empathy for the OW movement from so many Mormons? Why is there such fervent opposition to members of their own faith who feel differently than them about something? Was there a similar lack of empathy and understanding before the change in 1978?

    Empathy doesn’t require agreement. You can disagree with the OW movement and still attempt to understand their frustration, sadness, and feelings of rejection. I admire many aspects of Mormonism, but the occasional hypervigilance towards conformity at the cost of empathy and compassion is troubling.

    • Sara E. says:

      Jon, it’s just as baffling to me as an insider as it is un-Christian. But I do think there is a cultural explanation. Early in our church history there were friends and confidants of Joseph Smith who later became his detractors publishing harmful things about the fledgling church. They were labeled apostates and then began the “you are either for us or against us” thinking. Any diversity of thought sets off alarms of apostasy for many LDS in the United States.

    • Ziff says:

      Jon, I think this is an excellent question. I’m sure we could come up with many other changes to Church doctrine and/or policy that would bring up far less acrimony.

      This is just a guess, but I suspect that lots of Mormons who view themselves as more traditional have themselves made an uneasy peace with the Church’s maltreatment of women. They have to hold the contradictory ideas in their heads that the Church is wonderful and good and God’s own organization, and that the Church bars women from presiding over any mixed-gender groups, from performing or even officially witnessing any ordinances, and general leaders talk to women in the most condescending of tones. When OW comes along and brings up the issue of ordination, they’re forcing these people to let the “Church is wonderful” and “Church is sexist” ideas to come in contact in their heads, where they’ve been carefully kept separate, and the people respond with vitriol at having their peace disturbed.

  12. Mike says:

    April, I hope you know I love you as a niece and a friend, and as a sister in the gospel. I’m sorry for the unfair things you have experienced. I want to clarify here, as I did on your Facebook comment, that Elder Oaks did not say that women are an appendage to the priesthood. He did say that the Relief Society organization is an appendage to the priesthood, as are “all other authorities and offices” (quoting the Doctrine and Covenants). For example, the Doctrine and Covenants also calls the offices of Bishop and Elder appendages to the Melchizedek Priesthood, and the offices of Teacher and Deacon appendages to the Aaronic Priesthood. What this means is that the Relief Society, as well as the Bishopric, Elders’ quorum, etc., BELONG to the priesthood and are not separate from it. This was Elder Oaks’ meaning in context, as demonstrated by the following quotes from his talk:

    “Priesthood ordinances and priesthood authority pertain to women as well as men.”

    “Since the scriptures state that ‘all other authorities and offices in the Church are appendages to this Melchizedek Priesthood, all that is done under the direction of those priesthood keys is done with priesthood authority. How does this apply to women? …President [Joseph Fielding] Smith said again and again that women have been given authority.”

    “Thus it is truly said that Relief Society is not just a class for women, but something they belong to, a divinely established appendage to the priesthood. We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman, young or old, is set apart to preach the gospel as a full time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys, exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.”

    [Quoting M Russell Ballard] “Our Church doctrine places women equal to and yet different from men. God does not regard either gender as better or more important than the other. When men and women go to the temple they are both endowed with the same power, which is priesthood power. Access to the power and blessings of the priesthood is available to all of God’s children.”

    “I testify of the power and blessings of the priesthood of God, available for his sons and daughters alike. I testify of the authority of the priesthood, which functions throughout all of the offices and activities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.”

    Perhaps your disappointment came more from Elder Oaks clarifying that neither the First Presidency nor the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has the authority to ordain women to priesthood offices. Only Christ could alter the pattern of how the priesthood keys and offices are distributed.

    “A person who holds the priesthood is not able to confer his office or authority on another, unless authorized by one who holds the keys.”

    “Ultimately all keys of the priesthood are held by the Lord Jesus Christ, whose priesthood it is. He is the one who determines what keys are delegated to mortals and how those keys will be used.”

    “The divine nature of the limitations put upon the exercise of the priesthood keys explains an essential contrast between decisions on matters of Church administration, and decisions affecting the priesthood. The First Presidency…are empowered to make many decisions affecting Church policies and procedures…but…they are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood.”

    “The Lord has directed that only men will be ordained to offices in the priesthood, but as various Church leaders have emphasized, men are not the priesthood.”

    So it really wouldn’t help to have these men meet with you directly. According to Elder Oaks, they can’t change the revealed organization of the priesthood in the ways it is distributed to women and men. You need an interview with the Lord, not with the Prophet. Thankfully that is available to you anytime.

    I love you my friend. Keep the faith.

    • Caroline says:

      Mike,
      I think an interview with the prophet would help a great deal. We know from history that prophets almost always get revelations when they have been praying and struggling about a certain issue. And our prophet is unlikely to be fruitfully praying and struggling with an issue if he hasn’t met and conversed with those that are suffering under the status quo.

      And, one of the best things about Mormonism is that any change is possible at any time, given our concept of continuing revelation. Elder Oaks seems to be saying that the church leaders’ hands are tied when it comes to ordaining women. But, I think he would agree that all it would take is a revelation…. which I earnestly hope he and the other apostles are praying sincerely about.

      • Mike says:

        Carolyn,

        I do think Elder Oaks’ talk, along with others given recently, illustrate that the prophets and apostles are very aware of the struggles April and others are describing. And they are not unsympathetic. They are good men, under tremendous pressure, and with tight schedules and many, many responsibilities.

        Most other men their age have long since gratefully retired, while these men never seem to stop (until they simply drop). Compared to most of us they can rarely speak casually, complain, or even simply give their opinions, because millions of people will unofficially canonize or officially criticize the slightest comment they make. In this day of modern technology and instant communication, they have to be very careful (more so even than the early prophets and apostles) to speak only what God has authorized them to speak.

        They haven’t sought the offices to which they’ve been called, and they didn’t invent the organization of the Church. They are doing their best to follow the revelations we have already received, as well as those they continue to receive. I just hope you know they are your allies and not your enemies. I can feel their love for you and me as they speak. If their authority has any validity (I testify that it does), it is in God’s hands. Trust in Him. I believe what God has prepared and is preparing for us is more glorious than we can imagine.

        Your brother,

        Mike

    • April says:

      Yes, after posting this, I had some good discussions with my husband and other Ordain Women supporters about how the scriptural use of the word appendage differs from the dictionary definition, and that gives me hope. It was hard to hear the talk well via speaker phone in the rain, so I will study it more closely when it is available in print.

    • April says:

      I disagree with you that General Authorities meeting with us would not be helpful. First of all, as this document points out, there are many ways that opportunities for women can expand while we wait for the Lord to direct that women be ordained: http://whatwomenknow.org/all_are_alike/

    • April says:

      I need to read it when it is in print, but I also think Elder Oaks’ comments suggested opportunities for discussion. He says that women do have access to priesthood authority. How may we use that authority? Are there currently unnecessary limitations to the ways women are permitted to use priesthood authority? Can we expand these opportunities?

      • Mike says:

        April, I love that you are both intelligent and humble. Willing to admit when you might have misinterpreted something, and need more info. But also willing to think for yourself, and ask great questions like this one. I’m sure it was hard to hear the talk under the circumstances… It is now available to watch on LDS.org, which is how I painstakingly typed those quotes for you (listen, pause, listen, pause–because it’s not yet available in print). All this, of course, because I love you 🙂

        Mike

    • Mossbloom says:

      It wasn’t disappointing to me when Elder Oaks said that they didn’t have the authority to extend the priesthood to women. That is something that has been understood all along and the request of Ordain Women is that the leaders bring specific questions to the Lord as they seek his guidance in leading the Church. I am petitioning God in my own prayers, but I understand that the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve are the ones to whom church-wide inspiration is directed.

  13. Phillip says:

    April,

    Thank you for being so open and honest in your feelings. I want to mourn with you for these upsetting experiences you’ve endured, although as a man who has been ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood I realize that I can’t really get close to understanding or fully empathizing with you and other women in the church. What I really hope to convey in my response to your post is some encouragement. This is probably so similar to the kinds of responses you’ve been given every time you ask if women can be ordained to the priesthood that perhaps it will fail to actually encourage, but please hold on to your faith. I realize that being told to “wait for the Lord’s timing” or “hold on” could be frustrating to hear over and over again, but I have faith that God is in control and that as hurt as you may feel, He can comfort you.

    In General Conference last October, Timothy J. Dyches gave some words of encouragement that I’d like to share. Not that I think you need to repent (that’s the central subject of Elder Dyches’s talk) but I hope that in your mourning, your wondering, your worrying, and in your finding it hard to hope that you can find some comfort in these words, “If you feel unclean, unloved, unhappy, unworthy, or unwhole, (and I would add even if those feelings come from the members or the institution of the Church rather than from anything you’ve done) remember ‘all that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ’ (PMG 52). Have faith and patience in the Savior’s timing and purposes for you. ‘Be not afraid, only believe’ (Mark 5:36).”

    I don’t know why God hasn’t allowed women to be ordained to the priesthood. I don’t know why women can’t attend the priesthood session of conference. I don’t know why so many things in life and in the Church seem so horribly unfair. But I do know that God loves me, that He weeps when I am pained, and that yearns for me to turn to Him in my difficulties. I have felt his comforting love and know as you turn to Him in this trying time for you, you too can feel His love and comfort.

  14. Cruelest Month says:

    April, I wish you’d been in my ward for youth Sunday school ! By the time I was 14 or 15 we I’d stopped climbing out the windows in my Gunne Saxe dress with my BFF sister in truancy and worked out a great system where Mike and Jason went to class one week and BFF and I went the other week. No more bullying or dumb boy antics! You would have loved our alternating Sunday afternoon walks to talk about God, life, boys and other important stuff. On girl Sundays in class we had some great discussions with our teacher.

    Thank you for sharing such raw and vulnerable feelings and memories. I also recall feeling hurt by President Hinkley’s remarks on sister missionaries. Much of what you shared echoes my own feelings and memories of Sunday school and missionary service.

    I profoundly believe that good is not wasted. I was hurt by the rejection I felt Saturday, but also felt love, connection to sisters and brother and a sense that our willingness to stand at the door and symbolically knock was/is an acceptable offering. Your name on the letter addressed to Ordain Women and your action on Saturday matter to me! Thank you for making my burdens lighter.

  15. Stephanie says:

    Stop mourning the girl you used to be and get back to her. We are lead by a prophet of God. He has already received the answer you are looking for. Our church is true our leaders receive direct revelation from Heavenly Father. Keep your faith. Heavenly Father loves you.

    • TopHat says:

      Stephanie,

      Calling others to repentance is against comment policy and is just bad form in the Bloggernacle. We welcome many opinions, but please make sure you read up on the comment policy before commenting again.

    • Ziff says:

      “We are lead by a prophet of God. He has already received the answer you are looking for. ”

      REALLY? When did he say this? I’m so excited! From what I’ve seen, President Monson hasn’t said a *word* on the issue, but if you have some insider information, I’m all ears!

  16. Jared says:

    Hi, I am April’s husband. I just want to publicly say that I support and love my wife. Women’s ordination is a difficult thing to discuss in our church. There are strong feelings on both sides of the issue. I do not know what the answers are or what the future holds. That said, I want it publicly known that I support her and love her. She is one of the most righteous people that I know. She keeps all of her covenants. She serves faithfully in her callings. She never says no when asked to serve. She is always willing to give of herself to build the Kingdom of God. She is a worthy member of the church. I am lucky to be married to such a good women.

    • April says:

      Jared! Hi, love! I know the blogging world is not your thing and this is way out of your comfort zone to comment here. Thank you. I love you , too.

    • Lis says:

      Jared: So pleased to see your public support of April and the work she is doing. Male allies can really help by being visibly supportive. Studies have shown that even one supportive voice can alleviate some of the anxiety and stress that can come with speaking up.

    • Mike says:

      Jared,

      You’re right about April, of course. I want to also say that you are a good man. I’m so grateful when men like you find their way into the lives of my sisters, nieces, and female friends. I pray the same blessing for my daughters.

      Mike

  17. EFH says:

    You have written only one side of the story, my dear unknown friend. Having gone through a similar crisis myself, I think that you left out the best part, the happy ending. You wrote about how people, leadership and community in general acted and disappointed you. However, you have not written about the strong woman you have become. Nothing was lost. It is their lost not yours. You have learned to stand your ground and know your heart and mind. These are qualities that don’t come easily when someone is always being accommodated. Be happy because you resemble to the Heavenly Mother more today than ever….thanks to all the male bigots who do not know what to do with your wisdom and beauty.

  18. Daniel Smith says:

    Church PR = First Presidency of the Church

    The Church PR department can issue no statement unless it is first run by the First Presidency. No one would every be given that authority – to speak on behalf of the Church. The two are inherently linked. It the way the Church issues statements to the church as a whole internally as well. If the brethren did not like a certain statement, they would not approve it.

    It may be hard to hear coming from the Church, but it is their stance. And so by opposing Church PR statements, you find yourself in direct contradiction with the first presidency and quorum of the 12. I have empathy for members of the Ordain Women movement. I understand it is something they are very passionate about. But when you put yourself in the public eye you have to expect that from at least one side, you’re not going to like what you hear.

    I think Ordain Women had a valid question, but now they have exhausted the practice of asking. The question has been answered. It is now up to them to use their faith to sustain what is currently the Lord’s timing, or revile against the answer and publicly distance themselves from the brethren. What is more important in the end?

    • Ziff says:

      Really? Where is this in the D&C, or even the Church Handbook of Instructions? You seriously, honestly believe that the Church PR department *is* the First Presidency? Like, do we need to sustain them as prophets, seers, and revelators? Can they approve sealing clearances?

      Seriously, it’s pretty obvious that the GAs delegate PR work to PR people with at most general guidelines. You’re only convinced of this connection because it helps you argue against OW. I’ll be shocked if you apply it consistently. Wait until you find a PR statement you don’t like. You’ll back away from it like a hot potato, and remind everyone that it was “only a PR statement, not the prophet.”

    • April says:

      I did not “oppose” PR statements. I pointed out factual errors in PR statements. And I am an excellent source to correct those errors, because I am the person who was misquoted and I am one of the people whose actions were described incorrectly. Would you have me lie and pretend that actions and statements attributed to me were factual when they were not?

      • Mike says:

        I think misunderstandings (and hence misrepresentations) are probably inevitable in situations like this. And I think it goes both ways. For example, the idea that you are being rejected, not valued, or purposefully misrepresented, might also be a misunderstanding or misrepresentation from the perspective of those on the other side of the issue. Might be. Just saying…

        So I’m a big advocate for seeking understanding first, and not trying to represent the other side’s position until you are sure you’ve got it right. A good rule of thumb: Would they endorse your version of their position? Only then will a critique of that position seem fair and accurate, and fruitful dialogue continue.

        In many discussions I’ve had with people of other faiths (from atheists, to evangelicals, to gay rights activists), some of whom are quite critical of my faith, I tend to stay engaged as long as my position is being at least to a certain extent understood and accurately represented by the other side–or if they seem to at least be making an attempt to understand. I know that some misunderstanding is inevitable, so I try to be patient, but if they blatantly twist or ignore my repeated attempts to clarify my position, I quickly lose interest in dialogue.

        When you wrote that you disagreed with me above, I did not take offense because from past conversations and experience I feel like you do understand me, or at least you are willing to make the attempt. I think you do this because you care enough about me to want to understand my perspectives, and I try to do the same because I care about you. However, I think for fruitful dialogue we should seek understanding, and to accurately represent the position of others, even where that caring relationship doesn’t seem to exist or when at first blush they seem to be misrepresenting us. It’s a much more powerful position.

      • April says:

        Good points, Mike, but I can’t help but add, that if our church leaders and their employees wanted to understand us better, an excellent way to facilitate that would be to actually meet with us. Just saying.

      • Mike says:

        I thought you were going to say that 🙂

  19. Ziff says:

    April, thanks so much for posting this. What a beautifully written, heartfelt description of how it feels to be part of an organization that’s simultaneously claiming to be of God and telling you that it’s not really interested in what you have to offer. Reading this reminds me of research Steven Pinker brought up in The Better Angels of Our Nature. He talked about someone who had found evidence that reading novels helped people to become more sympathetic to the experiences of others. So obviously this post is nonfiction rather than a novel, but I love how it allows even me–a man–to get a better sense of what your experience is and how painful it is to be rejected by your own church. I think this fact makes it wonderful that you’ve posted it, because the broader an audience you get who can read your words with an open heart, the broader an audience you can get to truly understand the OW cause, and the more general cause of making the Church a more welcoming place for women.

  20. Valentine says:

    So what kind of answers did she give to your questions about church PR?

  21. Risa says:

    Thank you for writing this, April.

  22. Alain says:

    April, yours is a very sad story and I struggle at the poor treatment that was hurled at you by the Elder in your mission. I witnessed this with many Elders I served with and among RMs I interacted with after my mission and simply cannot fathom why they missed the memo that each missionary, whether brother or sister, is responding to a call to serve and is duly set apart with the priesthood mantle to go forth and serve and preach the word. They are equally capable, in fact I often found the Sisters even more capable as missionaries than the average Elder.

    I do believe some historical context is worth exploring here to help explain what I understood at the time was driving President Hinckley’s comments during that talk. I remember that talk very well and I remember at the time reflecting on whether it would accomplish what I believed was his goal.

    I don’t think you are misinterpreting President Hinckley’s talk April, but I do believe you have been hurt unintentionally by his words. I can’t speak to the whole let’s discourage sister missionaries from serving by keeping the age higher angle as that disturbed me then and the recent changes in age demonstrate that there was a reason to think a better approach was called for. I am not going to attempt to mansplain here so please don’t get your hackles up. I merely offer my own experiences with the culture I saw at BYU at the time and discussions I had with many women who struggled with the decisions of whether or not to serve.

    I believe the goal of his talk was to reset a growing cultural expectation among the young women in the Church, especially at BYU at the time, that there was something wrong with you if you didn’t serve a mission. He was looking to offer a message to many young women who seemed to be asking the question, “Is this what I should be doing?” even if they didn’t personally feel the call to serve.

    In the mid 90’s when I was at BYU, in my experience this message was largely driven by women who were 19-21 years old who looked around and determined that the best thing they could do with their time was to go and answer the call to serve. In my BYU Student Wards there was a fairly vocal message conveyed among many talented women that they had no interest in getting married until they had served and any woman worth her salt would do the same.

    I had a number of friends who frequently debated the question of whether or not they should serve. They themselves spoke of a culture of compulsion, that if you were nearing the age of 21 then serving a mission should be at the top of your list. Again, this was not driven by leaders but by the women themselves. I specifically was asked at different times by 3 friends and a cousin to give them a blessing as they struggled with this question. The answer in three out of the four was, “It’s up to you.” But for one of them the answer was a distinct call to serve and a reminder of the answer she had already received (something I was unaware of before the blessing).

    What I found most interesting about this was the difference of these women’s feelings and sense of whether they should serve when compared to others who told me they felt a strong to call. I encountered some of these women during my “overstay” at the MTC.

    When I was in the MTC I wound up on medical delay due to an injury I incurred there and spent 11 weeks instead of the typical 8 for a foreign language missionary. It’s interesting, the MTC didn’t really know what to do with those of us who were on Visa delays or medical delays. Once you finished the program, you kind of were on your own so they shoved us all together and told us to study our languages and scriptures, attend the temple daily, and stay out of trouble. So we spent a great deal of time talking about motivations and why we were on a mission because what else are you going to talk about as you’re waiting to get notification that your plane tickets are ready.

    What I noticed was that most of the Sister missionaries described either a “hot fudge moment” – overwhelming feeling of the Spirit to convince them – or just a certainty that had been with them since a young age. The Lord had called them and they were responding to that call. I envied them because they seemed to have a deeper testimony and greater sense of purpose as a result. I entered the MTC due to the obligation and because it seemed like the best thing I could do with two years, but I only found my true conversion as I studied at the MTC and struggled in prayer to find that certainty. With the deeper testimony came this clear sense of purpose but I didn’t walk into the MTC with this as they did.

    When I arrived in the mission field, and especially as I became a leader, I noticed that not every Elder had the same deep affinity for sister missionaries that had developed in my MTC district or in the “study group” that I experienced in the last three weeks. When I became a District Leader I made it my responsibility to make sure I did everything to support the Sister because frankly they were accomplishing amazing things. Though there were a few who struggled with missionary life and I wasn’t always sure why they had come. But I found myself asking that question far more frequently of the Elders I served with so that’s not a cut at either gender. This was definitely before the bar was raised.

    My point of exploring the history was that I saw a difference between those who felt a call and those who felt culturally compelled. As I said, I believe it is this cultural push and not the Lord’s call that President Hinckley was speaking to in his 1997 talk. And it worked at least among the women I spoke with after. The tenor of the conversation had changed because they were able to point to the statement that the Prophet said we are not obligated to do so.

    This is all anecdotal but I feel like I have a good sense for this because it seemed like every young woman I dated in the mid 90’s – I married several years after I left BYU – struggled with this question. And my friends used to joke that I was like the pre-MTC because it seemed like 90% of these girls all went on to serve missions. (I can recall 8 out of 10 so maybe the number is closer to 80%) 🙂

    As such, I didn’t hear President Hinckley saying he was embarrassed by his granddaughters who were serving but instead he reflected that they were not serving because he had told them they should. He was trying to convey the message, which he repeats several times, that young women are not under the same obligation that young men are when it comes to missionary service. If they feel called to the service then they will be a blessing and accomplish great works as a result. At the end he does throw in the quirky confession of how they are specifically setting the age higher with the realization that this will discourage many young women from serving because they will wind up married or find other demands on their interests and efforts. But I don’t believe this is intended to convey the message that any sister who does serves is any less for having done so.

    • April says:

      Thank you for your thoughts. I also think that President Hinckley had good intentions. I think it would be easier for our male leaders to avoid unintended consequences that hurt women if women were among them as priesthood leaders, participating fully in decision-making authority, instead of as consultants called in only when it occurs to men that they need consultation. That is one of the reasons I support women’s ordination.

      • Amelia says:

        Exactly this. It baffles me to no end that the church simultaneously maintains that men and women are inherently and eternally different, but that there is no need for women to be actively participating at all levels of leadership right on up to the top.

        I generally do not doubt the good intentions of our male leaders, but I see them say and do things that are unintentionally harmful to women on a regular basis. The church cannot have its gender-essentialism-cake and eat it too…

  23. MCS says:

    At what point would OW be satisfied and say, “Okay, the answer is no?”

    I guess two statements from the Church’s official PR department isn’t enough.

    How about a General Conference talk given by one of the Twelve? Okay, maybe not.

    Would a letter from the First Presidency, signed by them and read over the pulpit in sacrament meeting, be enough of an answer?

    Why should OW be able to sit down with the First Presidency, when every week there are literally dozens of requests for meetings made by people with problems with the Church? Do media events, PR campaigns, and angry blog posts make OW any different?

    • Ziff says:

      If you love the status quo–the female priesthood ban–I guess it’s easy to imagine that there are answers in everything. Elder Oaks gave a Conference talk where the only meat was for him to say that it wasn’t up to the FP and Q of 12 to end the ban. So he didn’t at all answer OW’s request for the GAs to pray to God to find out the answer. Giving a talk that kind of jumps around a topic someone has brought up does not necessarily answer a specific question.

      • aaron says:

        Ziff,
        I’m pretty sure The Lord know the urgency of all things. HE will direct the prophet when and what to say. The constant asking and asking and asking, won’t speed up HIS timeline. Have you not prayed about this issue? If so then he has heard your prayers. And when the Lord is ready for what ever HE has planned, He will execute it through his mouthpiece- The prophet. Our Father in heaven has infinte patience…………….

      • Ziff says:

        Nice idea, Aaron, but as long as Church leaders have their own agency, including being free to make mistakes, there is no guarantee that the Church is doing things on God’s timeline.

      • Rachel says:

        Aaron, what do you make of Hannah in the Old Testament, who came to the temple every year to pray for a child? Or, of President Spencer W. Kimball who prayed many times concerning blacks and the priesthood?

      • Aaron says:

        ZIFF,
        I guess I’m naive, I just blindly trust that the Lord directs the prophet, and if the prophet were to lead according to his own agenda, that the Lord would remove and replace the errant prophet.

        RACHEL,

        Who are we to tamper with the timeline of the Lord? Do we really profess to know better than he does?

        Let me share this experience, my wife and I prayed and fasted for the last 13 years pleading with the Lord to bless us with a child. He hasn’t seen fit as of yet to answer these pleadings. I love the Lord, but I do not believe he has abandoned us in our affliction. I know that some day he will fulfill the promises he has made to me and my wife in our own numerous blessings concerning this, including our patriarchal blessings. I exercise my faith ny believing his word and following his commands.

      • Aaron says:

        I had to leave for a while to help my wife set up for activity days tomorrow. she has planned a very cute talent show with the girls.

        I just wanted to finish my thought about my unanswered prayers about having a child. It took some time, but I no longer pray that my wife and I will get pregnant. now I pray that my will can be changed to be in alignment with the Lord’s will, that my heart will soften and that I won’t feel the pain when I look at others and their children. especially when those children are mistreated. My wife and I do foster care and have for the last six years we’ve adopted three beautiful, rambunctious boys. I am so blessed. However, I still feel the pain of not being able to join with my wife in the creation of life. But I do know that when I pray for his peace, he readily gives it.

      • Aaron says:

        Rachel,
        Also, Hannah went to pray, because she has a mouth and an ability to pray herself . Her cries, (as yours) were heard by god. My sons’prayers are no less heard by god just because he’s not the head of the house. The prophets prayers are no more powerful than anyone’s. Have faith in your own ability have prayers heard.

      • Becky says:

        I need to leave this page. So, you’re assumption here is that if the answer isn’t “Give the women the Priesthood,” then the Q12 didn’t pray?

      • Aaron says:

        Becky,

        I have lots of thoughts about this… but, I believe that if the Lord wanted women to have the priesthood, he would do it. Don’t you believe that an all-powerful God would make it happen? Are you saying that God doesn’t havethat kind of power? All due respect.

      • Mike says:

        No I think Becky was saying that God has the power, but apparently has said “no.”

    • Rachel says:

      I am not part of OW, so can not answer for them. I can say that official doctrine does not come from PR. It comes instead, from the Prophet of the church, and that if it is new doctrine, common consent is required.

      I also second Ziff’s comment about Elder Oak’s remarks. He left it open for God to do something, but did not explicate whether he and other General Authorities have prayed to God for revelation on the matter, in the way we know President Kimball and others did for the revelation on blacks and the priesthood.

      If President Monson gave an address, stating that he has prayed concerning the matter, and received a “No,” or a “Not yet,” I am fairly certain that members of OW would “be satisfied,” as well as grateful that he asked.

      • Rachel says:

        Concerning your last point, “Why should OW be able to sit down with the First Presidency?” This to me, is one of the biggest losses of having a worldwide Church. In earlier times, members could meet easily with leaders about their needs and concerns. There is also scriptural precedent for taking such concerns to prophets to pray about. I read this account, just now, written by a woman named Lynn Matthews Anderson many years ago, but still relevant today:

        “I can do what the daughters of Zeloophehad did (Numbers 27). They went to Moses and explained their situation and their feelings of being unjustly treated; Moses listened, took their concerns to God, and as a result, the laws of inheritance in ancient Israel were rewritten to include women. If the daughters had remained silent, or if Moses had refused to listen, they and countless generations of women would have been dispossessed in Israel. So we Mormon feminists try to make our experiences, our concerns and our questions known to the leaders of Christ’s church–not with the idea that we have the complete solution, i.e., “here’s our agenda and we demand that you make the changes we want”–but rather in the hope that our leaders will turn to God and receive authoritative, divinely-revealed answers to take the place of human opinion, however well-intentioned. Who will be moved upon to ask for answers to our questions? As ever, I hope and pray it will be the current prophet.”

      • MCS says:

        I hope this doesn’t come out the wrong way. I’m honestly trying to have dialogue. I’m ashamed at the way some members of the Church have reacted to you. I might not agree with your tactics–and am pretty apathetic about ordination for women in general–but I sympathize with the inequality women in the Church face. I really do, and try to make up for it in my conduct with others.

        The globalized Church is too big for anybody with an issue to address the prophet himself. It’s unfortunate that we are past the days when anybody could walk in and have an audience with one of the Twelve, but we are. It’s just logistically not possible.

        There is an established way, which is going through the local authorities. Unfortunately, most of them are close minded and unwilling to go through the formal channels to address the problem. I don’t think OW did themselves any favors by continuing with their events, because it caused the Church to issue the harsh press releases labeling them as “Other.” I think it’s going to be impossible for women to approach their local leaders for a while now.

        This is a bad comparison, but I’m sure Tom Phillips would have loved to meet with the First Presidency. I’m sure there are lots who would. From the standpoint of the Church, I think they’re trying to avoid having to shut down many other, less well-intentioned activist groups by being very firm with this one. It’s unfortunate, but if they were to give in to OW, every group out there with a bone to pick (Let non-Mormons into temple weddings! All members should own handcarts Just In Case!) will try to get their attention the same way. I don’t think anybody would want that.

      • Mike says:

        I’m not sure if the Church would publicize a “no” answer even if they prayed and had received one. Why? Because it wouldn’t change doctrine. The best they would probably say publicly if they received a “no” would likely be to reiterate the doctrine, which is what Elder Oaks did. Because of this, most people aren’t aware that prophets were praying about the blacks and the priesthood for years before Kimball got his “yes.” That yes changed church-wide practice, and so it was published church wide.

        By the way, the blacks/priesthood question might not parallel the women/priesthood question because in the former case it turned out there wasn’t a revelation or doctrine to be overturned. Still the prophets hesitated to overturn established practice until they got the clear go ahead from God. That in spite of much more intense pressure than OW has applied. The same applied to the polygamy ban only the pressure endured prior to the ban was even more intense–possibly because a previous revelation was at stake. As Church history demonstrates, our leaders will endure worldwide ridicule, persecution, jail, and even death before they do anything this significant without the Lord’s approval. This brings me comfort.

        So if the answer from the Lord is “no.” It probably won’t be published because it doesn’t change practice or doctrine, and the possibility exists that (as with polygamy) the answer might change when the Lord sees fit. If the answer is yes, then publishing that answer will become necessary. Otherwise I doubt we’ll hear a thing about the many issues I’m sure the general authorities pray about.

  24. MargaretOH says:

    The idea of rejected offerings really hits home to me. My big crisis of faith as a young adult hinged entirely on that issue: feeling like the church I loved and for which I had sacrificed and worked didn’t really want me or what I had to offer. It was devastating. The best thing that happened in my religious life in the last decade was moving to an inner-city ward that needed me enough to give me serious responsibility. I love that I can be open about who I am and still have people say, “Well, you show up and do the work so we’re happy to have you.”

  25. Holly says:

    April, you rock. I was proud to stand in line with you.

  26. Keri says:

    Would it really have been difficult to know to speak to women in a women’s meeting?

    • Mike says:

      Probably not, but this might have been the most relevant context for at least two reasons: 1. His talk was to clarify doctrine on the priesthood, and this was the priesthood session. 2. He might have known ya’ll would be listening to this session, whereas you might or might not have attended women’s session 🙂

  27. Brooke says:

    April, I am grateful that you shared. Thank you for being brave and vulnerable and honest. Much love to you.

  28. liz johnson says:

    April, this is a lovely (and heartbreaking) post. I wish I could have stood with you and my other sisters.

  29. Kate says:

    I fully sustain the church and our leaders. I am grateful Elder Oaks said what he did say. As I woman, I watched the Priesthood Session via the internet because I can. Do you see men lining up to go to the General Women’s session? If Elder’s Oaks message wasn’t for you, then why else is it being published in the Ensign and available for ALL of us no matter our gender. If it was meant only for men then he would’ve said it in a ‘secret meeting only for Priesthood holders.’ Maybe Elder Oaks was supposed to speak in a different session and was unable to change his talk? Who knows, obviously it was inspired by God. I still have a very strong testimony in this church and am grateful for modern day revelations.

    • Caroline says:

      “Do you see men lining up to go to the General Women’s session?”

      Nope. Any man who wants to is welcome to come inside the conference center and attend the General Women’s session. Why they are not barred — like the women are from the priesthood session — is beyond me.

      • Mike says:

        Is that true? I suspect that if I asked my bishop for tickets to the women’s session he would say that they were reserved for women. And I also suspect that if a large group of men lined up to go we might get the same response, if not immediately then eventually. Is the conference center not full to capacity during the women’s conference?

        Last fall I read all of the talks from the conference in the Ensign, including the women’s session. I benefitted from all of them, and used a sister’s talk in one of my elders quorum lessons, but I’m glad to leave seats open for my sisters, wife and daughters at the women’s session where the talks are specifically directed to them in their priesthood callings.

      • Mike says:

        By the way, last fall my sons and I were also waiting in the standby line. We got into the tabernacle where hundreds of men and boys were waiting for seats in the conference center. They would take these men and boys, eager to sit in the same room as their prophet, by groups over to the conference center as available seats were found. This continued even after the session began, but when the conference center was filled to capacity, there were still hundreds of men and boys in the tabernacle standby line, including my sons and I, watching the session on a screen like we could have done in our chapel 60 miles away.

        And although there were likely no women lined up outside our chapel (there weren’t last Saturday), I doubt they would have been turned away if they had.

    • TopHat says:

      The fact that you can watch priesthood session at home now (and isn’t that wonderful?! I love that!) is related to the fact that the Church made that available last fall when Ordain Women did their first action. Even if women never become ordained, Ordain Women has changed the Church for the better. Now boys and men who had to travel 45 minutes or more to priesthood can see it at home; now people who have disabilities that affect their ability to travel or be in large groups can see conference at home!

      Thanks, Mormon feminism! You are helping all of us.

      • Mike says:

        Yes, it is wonderful. And if that was a direct result of the actions of OW (it’s hard to know for sure) I’m grateful. Still my sons and I like to at least go to the chapel to watch, and I have very fond memories of watching the conference in the tabernacle with my father and brothers when I was a child–and seeing the prophet (Kimball) in person. Something about that had a particular impact on me, both the father-son bonding entailed in going away together to attend “our” session (just as my wife and daughters did for the women’s session), seeing the prophets and apostles live, and getting a treat together afterward. The whole experience was quite powerful for my young mind, binding me to father, brothers, and church leaders all at once.

        It’s quite a thing, I think, that is also offered to mothers and daughters in the women’s session. And I think it is important for as many people as possible to have that experience in their respective sessions. 200 plus men and boys were able to have that experience last Fall because the OW group was turned away from the priesthood session. If there were twice as many OW supporters this time, twice as many men were allowed that experience when these supporters were not. Perhaps the problem is in the label “priesthood session.” Perhaps the Church should rename it the “Men’s session of conference.” And instead of having Relief Society and “Priesthood” meeting on Sunday, we would simply call it Relief Society vs. Elders/High Priest Quorum Meetings. As Elder Oaks (and the Doctrine and Covenants) said, these are all appendages (branches) of the priesthood. Yes, as an Elder, my quorum is an “appendage” to the priesthood (D&C 84:29).

  30. An Admirer says:

    Dear April,

    I don’t like to admit this, but I am kind of a coward. I guess it’s just my native temperament, but I am a sensitive introvert who is extremely conflict averse and always self conscious and it is difficult for me to imagine having your courage.

    Because of my temperament, I haven’t been one who has felt a personal vocation to priesthood leadership, but since I was a young woman I have been aware of and hurt by the marginalization of women in the church. I think, in fact, that my natural timidity made me yearn even more strongly for female role models in the church. And that is why I support Ordain Women, for whatever my silent, admittedly cowardly support has been worth.

    But here’s the thing I want you to know. Those people who talk about how Elder Oaks smack down and the ominous tone of the PR response will discourage us quiet fence sitters are wrong. At least about me. I feel my courage growing because of your example and those of the other brave women who are placing their own names and reputations on the altar for the rest of us. One message I heard over and over in conference was that I need to be unafraid to defend my beliefs from the crowd. Well, guess who my crowd is? It is not political or social approval that I crave. It is the approval of my family, my friends, my ward, my tribe. And I have been silent when others have been brave because I fear alienation from those whose disapproval would wound me most.

    I don’t see myself waving a banner like Captain Moroni, but I am praying for the courage and opportunities to speak openly of my convictions, as dictated by my conscience and understanding of the doctrines of this gospel that I love. I’m sorry your gifts have been dismissed by the institutional church. I hope it’s not too arrogant if I wonder if maybe they were never meant for the institution, but rather to touch the hearts of quiet women like me who need inspiration.

    Thank you.

  31. Big L says:

    I live far away from Utah, but you brave women were in my thoughts this weekend. I feel overwhelming gratitude for your courage to act. Thank you for daring to be true, thank you for speaking, for standing, and for telling your story. There is something so holy about the vulnerability in telling your story truthfully and courageously. There is something intensely sacred when I or somebody else hears that story with an accepting heart and can learn from it. I am humbled by both your pain and your continued willingness to engage the church. I feel confused about the tactics of the Church’s PR. I feel saddened by the condemning and dismissive attitude of most Mormons I know in response to the Ordain Women movement. I’m not really sure what to make of any of it.

  32. Mike says:

    More accuracy would really help this dialogue, I think. Neither God nor his prophet has said “no” to women holding and exercising the priesthood, what has apparently received a “no” answer is the question of women being ordained as priests, elders, bishops, etc. The Doctrine and Covenants is clear in specifying that it is men that are ordained to these offices.

    What I understood Elder Oaks as saying is that women have and use the priesthood all the time, but they are not ordained to these specific offices in the priesthood. The key word is “ordained.” I recently (with permission from those holding the keys) “conferred” the Melchizedek priesthood on my son, and “ordained” him to the office of an elder. The conferral of priesthood upon women happens in temples, while ordaining to the specific offices mentioned above has so far been reserved for men. What OW is asking for, in my understanding, is not so much the priesthood (many of them already have and exercise it) as the perceived power that comes with these offices, e.g. elder, high priest, etc.

    But D&C 121 is clear: Unlike worldly power which often seeks to press others into the service of a “leader”, priesthood power can only be exercised (whether by women or by men) THROUGH service, and ONLY without coercion. It is a power to SERVE, and to persuade others to serve WITH, not FOR, the priesthood holder. It is not by any means a power to control another person.

    I think it is interesting in this context that D&C 121 asserts that it is the nature of “almost all men” to begin to exercise “unrighteous dominion” when they have perceived power. But then it clarifies that THIS (priesthood) power cannot be exercised that way “in any degree”. So God has given specific responsibilities within this priesthood to men–who might otherwise be prone to dominance–that REQUIRE these men to exercise their power only on their knees so to speak, in absolute humility, or lose that power.

    I’m not suggesting that men are needier here (as I will explain), but that the authorized use of priesthood by both women and men might be designed to fit their different needs. This is derived from a scriptural description of the nature of men and priesthood power (D&C 121). Men, prone by nature to unrighteous dominance, are place by virtue of the above mentioned priesthood offices, in certain leadership positions. But the trick is that to be effective they can only use their authority by “persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned,” etc. So one purpose of the priesthood offices given to men, seems to be to train your husbands and fathers to be “gentle, meek, and loving.” Not a bad thing, I would say.

    Now going beyond D&C 121, and perhaps entering the realm of speculation, my own experience is that women are not naturally prone to exercise unrighteous dominion (although some are, no doubt, but probably most often in reaction to past hurt). Thus their need for training in the priesthood might be somewhat different. The same rules apply, the power can only be operated through gentleness, etc., but the responsibilities might differ. Because women might be less prone to exercise unrighteous dominion when in positions of perceived power, and perhaps more prone to take abuse without retaliation, their challenge might be to exercise leadership while in positions of perceived powerlessness (something, by the way, that April exemplifies). This in contrast with the man’s challenge to exercise humility while in positions of perceived power (something, by the way, that April’s husband exemplifies).

    Thus Eve is given the challenge to lead Adam by listening to his counsel ONLY as he submits his will to God’s will. This gives Eve a subtle, though powerful, leadership role since Adam just happens to have a passionate desire for someone to listen to his counsel :). He might just do anything, including listening to and following Eve’s counsel (which he does), in order to have her listen to him in return. He’s got to follow God, and at the same time merit Eve’s support (who is also following God). So Eve’s conditional support for Adam becomes a powerful motivation for Adam to give counsel in humility. And Adam’s counsel to Eve, insofar as it is godly, becomes a powerful motivation for Eve to act powerfully even as she seeks Adam’s counsel. They are leading one another then, Adam overtly, and Eve covertly, both perhaps experiencing the type of leadership most beneficial for their growth, and neither exerting a greater power than the other. They are equally yoked.

    For a different take on the current priesthood organization, from a self-professed feminist and BYU scholar, see Valarie Hudson Cassler’s perspectives on priesthood authority and the two trees, in “Mormon Scholars Testify.” April’s already given me her thoughts on Cassler’s perspective, but I’m also interested in other responses.

    Just a thought.

  33. X2 Dora says:

    Mike, it sounds like you are describing hard (male) versus soft (female) power. In this type of dynamic, men are free to do as they will, and women must work around the men with authority. I think that this is a particularly harmful way of distributing authority. If, as the scriptures say, that men are by nature prone to exercising unrighteous dominion, then giving them the authority to act as they will is the most harmful thing that we could do for them. Sure, it doesn’t have the support of the heavens if they are acting unrighteously, but until they are removed from authority (which an old stake president of mine says is rarely done because Church HQ rarely interferes at the stake or ward level) the members of that geographic group are subject to the unrighteous acts of their leader.

    And why should women have to tip toe around men who are acting unrighteously? Eve was the one who made the right decision in the garden. She had to go around Adam to do it. Wouldn’t it have been far better to talk about it as equals? Why should she, or any woman, have to sneak around the men in their lives in order to get things done?

    On another note, I’ve been thinking about development. We are meant to be gods and goddesses. In learning to drive a motorcycle, the cardinal rule is that you set your sights on where you want to go, and that you will go where your sight is set. So, if women limit their responsibilities and opportunities to serve, by saying that they have enough to do, and don’t want anything more, then they will certainly not get anything more. Not in this life, and not in the next. Furthermore, it seems quite selfish to say that since they don’t want the priesthood, no woman should have it.

    • Mike says:

      I don’t think hard or soft power captures what I was trying to describe, at least in the way you describe. And I certainly do not think that differences in the ways men and women might hold or exercise their power lead to the conclusion that men are free to do what they want and women have to tiptoe around them. Take a bishop who is exercising unrighteous dominion, for example, and withdraw both the support of God and the support of his wife (and the female members of the ward, and by extension, their husbands). See how much power he has then. The woman’s impact on the man is anything but soft in this regard, it is relentless, regardless of the official position or office they might hold. But many women seem unaware of their power, and so languish in a perception that they are disadvantaged (an ironically unfeminist assumption when you think about it).

      When Eve gave Adam the choice to partake of the fruit or live in isolation, Adam was even willing to disobey God (in spite of his formerly adamant intentions to follow Him), in order to retain the company of his wife. Wars have been fought because of the influence of women, and some of the great wonders of the world built. Solomon and David gave up their godly power and kingly strength to obtain the company of women, whereas Moses’, Isaac’s, Jacob’s and Joseph’s favor with God was obtained largely through the influence of women. Interesting then that God commits Eve to listen to Adam’s counsel, but only insofar as Adam follows God. God recognizes that Eve is a powerful motivator for Adam, and so gets her on his side to help keep Adam in line.

      But this doesn’t make Adam a soft leader either, God gives him a powerful influence with Eve as well. Most women I know look for a husband that has strength in some regard, spiritually, physically, and/or intellectually. Most women I’ve met are repelled by weak men, but are willing to “hearken” to a strong but kind man (unkindness is one of the most intolerable weaknesses). But all other influence is lost when a man begins to exercise unrighteous dominion.

      Whether or not this arrangement is God’s will, I think it is a matter of world history (since Adam and Eve) that a primary challenge for men has been to use their power “softly”, and for women to use their softness powerfully. As I mentioned, April and Jared are great examples of this. April is not wielding a bazooka to get her points across, she is wielding words. Softly and yet with considerable power (like the power of water to erode a mountain). And among others, she has by this power obtained the support of her husband. And yet I’ve also seen a gentle reproof from Jared (though rare) influence her to alter course like a well placed boulder in a stream. If that’s what you mean by hard and soft, then perhaps you’re right. But amid Jared’s strength I see softness and amid April’s softness, strength.

      So my thoughts could be summarized simply by saying: 1. A perception has been expressed here that men hold more power than women. 2. If this is true, it requires men to learn how to exercise humility and for women to learn how to exercise influence. I don’t think you would disagree with me so far. It is the third point that is more likely to bother you: 3. This state of affairs might be all part of the plan, in order for men and women to learn the different lessons required by their gender: Men, softness; Women, strength.

    • Mike says:

      Also, I think there is another way to understand the women who are not seeking ordination. They might not be seeing themselves as limiting their responsibilities and opportunities, but as embracing and magnifying them.

      Two claims seem common in justifying the OW movement: 1. The claim that women have less power in relation to men, and 2. The claim that men have abused their power. I’m sure in some contexts and in the experiences of many OW supporters these claims have some truth and relevance. But in other contexts and in the experiences of many women they might be less true or relevant.

      Many women are well aware of their considerable power, and see it as at least equal to that of men. They might see the above claims of OW as framing women as weak and vulnerable (hence Becky’s perception that there is a mysogynistic tone on this page). And many women do not see most men they know as abusing their power. For example, my wife has experienced unrighteous dominion on the part of one or two priesthood leaders, and it was quite troubling to her, but her predominant experience in Church contexts, I think, has been with men who are both capable and kind. She will often turn to ecclesiastical leaders for support and counsel. Not because she’s weak (April can verify that my wife, her aunt, is quite a strong person), but because she sees them as resources and partners in supporting her already considerable abilities and influence.

      I don’t think she would see priesthood ordination as an added burden, or avoid any godly opportunities or responsibilities. But since she does not see herself as being at a power disadvantage, and sees men in the Church primarily as resources and partners, rather than as oppressors, I don’t think she’s concerned about ordination. She might also understand the power of a godess differently than you might, and so see her opportunities in mortality as actualizing that power rather than constraining it.

  34. Rebecca says:

    I always find your posts to be very touching as well as thought provoking. The best part, for me, is being able to open a dialogue about an issue and discuss it freely. It’s a shame OW isn’t going to the next priesthood session, because my husband and I’d would love to join with you.

    • April says:

      Thank you Rebecca. And don’t worry, while the Priesthood Session action is past, we will have a variety of other kinds of actions in the future that you can participate in.

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